Ferric (oxyhydro-)oxides (FeOx) precipitate in the rhizosphere at neutral or alkaline pH and are adsorbed on the plant root surfaces. Consequently, the higher binding affinity of arsenate to FeOx and the low iron phytoavailability of the precipitated FeOx make the phytoremediation of arsenic difficult. In the present study, the influence of chelating ligands on arsenic and iron uptake by hydroponically grown rice seedlings (Oryza sativa L.) was investigated. When chelating ligands were not treated to the growth medium, about 63 and 71% of the total arsenic and iron were distributed in the root extract (outer root surfaces) of rice, respectively. On the other hand, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), ethylenediaminedisuccinic acid (EDDS) and hydroxyiminodisuccinic acid (HIDS) desorbed a significant amount of arsenic from FeOx of the outer root surfaces. Therefore, the uptake of arsenic and iron into the roots and their subsequent translocation to the shoots of the rice seedlings increased significantly. The order of increasing arsenic uptake by chelating ligands was HIDS > EDTA > EDDS. Methylglycinediacetic acid (MGDA) and iminodisuccinic acid (IDS) might not be effective in arsenic solubilization from FeOx. The results suggest that EDDS and HIDS would be a good and environmentally safe choice to accelerate arsenic phytoavailability in the phytoremediation process because of their biodegradability and would be a competent alternative to the widely used non-biodegradable and environmentally persistent EDTA.